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The Wondering Wanderer

By Jtneill [CC-BY-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Once upon a time a man lived in a big city. In some ways he was an ordinary bloke but he noticed things. Things others didn’t seem to notice.

He noticed that although everyone had all that they needed, many were unhappy.

He noticed that in the big city, those who lived in the tallest parts never mixed with those in the rest of the city. Yet the whole city was governed and controlled by those in the big white palace on the hill. In his heart he felt this was wrong but he didn’t know why.

Being a man to follow his heart, with the arrival of summer he decided to wander to far away lands to see if every town and city was the same. An ambitious endeavour but his goal was set.

The Communal Conundrum 

The first town he came to he noticed was quite different to his own. In fact there were no buildings at all. All the people lived happily together in a group of caves but with no sign of any shops. 

Upon asking an old man about why this was, the old man said he had never heard of a shop. Everyone gathered & made what they needed each day as it came. The Wanderer commented that it seemed very sensible and all the people seemed very happy.

The old man agreed that everyone got on together very happily but often the people were hungry. Each day the people would gather and go out together to find food. However, they all stayed together. So when they managed to find a tree with fruit, each had some but never enough to fill their bellies.

Even though they were happy with each others company, they remained constantly hungry and the winters in the caves took their toll. Puzzled by their communal conundrum they carried on as best they could.

The Wanderer realised just how fortunate he was because this never happened in his city.

Snug but Hungry 

Moving on, the Wanderer came to the second town. This town was quite different being made of wood, mud and thatch and outside of each house were baskets of fruit & other foods. Approaching another old man, he remarked on how different this town was to the last.

The old man said that once upon a time they too had lived in those damp caves. However, they had realised that if each morning they discussed what they needed, the people could go out in groups to different places to gather as much as was required. Over time it had meant they could gather the materials they needed to build these nice snug homes. Winters still came harsh but the warm houses made a difference.

The Wanderer could see the sense of this.  He wished he could return to the first village and help them understand how they too could achieve this with a little foresight.

However, summer was progressing and he felt there was more to explore and understand.

Best Laid Plans 

Journeying further, the Wanderer came to a third and final town. All seemed very similar to the second town except it was much larger. He commented on this to an old lady. 

She agreed that indeed a few years ago they had been almost exactly the same as the town he’d just visited. However, with the harsh winters and their warm, snug houses came larger families! Because of this they needed to provide more food and to store some for the hard winters. So the people had sat down and discussed how they might do this. They had no idea where to start but over a few days they managed to agree how they might attempt this feat over the coming seasons.

In that first year, they made mistakes but because they all had a shared vision and wanted to help each other they managed to improve their fortunes.

The old lady went on to tell how the next year they sat down again and discussed how they could do this each and every year. They wanted to ensure that the children born that last winter could safely survive the coming years. Sure enough they agreed a way forward and in time the town grew and was filled with the sound of children all year round.

He marvelled at the sense & success of this and how they had still managed to foster a happy community, unlike in his city. The Wanderer congratulated the old lady on the way she and her people had improved their town.

Flattered by his praise, she smiled and whispered quietly, “Would you like to see something even more special?”.

Agreeing, she led him out of the village to a small hill where the elders of the town were gathered. They were all admiring a large white square in the ground created from stone. The Wanderer asked the lady what it was.

With great pride she said, “We’ve found a way to make our town even more successful! As we get older our houses are less comfy but we treasure the wisdom of our elders. So we are going to build them an Ivory Tower!

The Wanderer looked around him and wondered where it had all gone wrong…

Background Footnote 

A funny little story, this blog was in response to a provocative conversation on Twitter started by @DougShaw1 with the following tweet : 

“Can you see into the future? Nope – neither can I. Which is why strategic planning is such a waste of time and money. Follow your heart.” 

The ensuing dialogue between Doug, Sukh Pabial, Jonathan Wilson and myself led to Doug writing “I Have A Dream” over on his blog.  This little story was a way to express the value and perils of “strategic planning” without us arguing over the commercial merits in the workplace. I hope I achieved at least some of that sentiment!

Why not join in the discussion and comment here or here?


4 thoughts on “The Wondering Wanderer

  1. I have read the tale twice and sorry to say that although I am finding it enjoyable, I'm not sure I understand it yet. If the third village treasure the wisdom of their elders, whay do they seek to isolate themselves from them? And I do find it odd that the wanderer didn't choose to go back from village two to village one, maybe his plan lacked flexibility? ;)I've had a long week so I'll take another look on Monday and maybe get some further perspectives on this.For now, I'd like to add in a view from Jamie Notter, co-author of Humanize – who has also joined in the discussion on his blog too: 


    Posted by Doug Shaw | May 11, 2012, 2:57 PM
  2. I put a link to your post over at Jamie's place – hope you don't mind? And I love the fact that you can edit your own comment here – I just corrected a type – cool!


    Posted by Doug Shaw | May 11, 2012, 3:23 PM
  3. Thanks Doug for the comment & link to Jamie Notter.By way of explanation, it's an old lady taking the Wanderer to see what the elders have done for themselves.  So it's the elders isolating themselves in the 3rd village.Why didn't the wanderer go back to village 2?  He could of but that's not this story.  His goal was to wander to far away lands to see if every town and city was the same. Was it his role to go back – ie why not the villagers of the 2nd village?  Also, my experience of travel is that we do tend to move on rather than retrace our steps.  We may go back another time but that's a different journey and a different story.Rest well and do come back!


    Posted by davidgoddin | May 11, 2012, 3:34 PM
  4. Can't find the link over at Jamie's place but happy to add it in to the mix!


    Posted by davidgoddin | May 11, 2012, 3:41 PM


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